French National Party politico Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, 28 year old granddaughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, spoke yesterday at the annual conservative jamboree CPAC. She got applause for her comments:
To open oneself to the outside, you must have a solid core. To welcome, you have to remain, and to share, you must have something to offer. Without nation, and without family, the limits of the common good, natural law, and collective morality disappears, as the reign of egoism continues.
Echoing National Review‘s Michael Dougherty, who said Le Pen illustrated differences between Euro Catholic conservatives and Anglo-Protestant influenced conservatives, Rod Dreher commented:
Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture. Conservative US Protestants share a lot of the views of European conservatives, but there seems to be among conservatives from Catholic cultures a deeper sense of order unifying these principles. There also tends to be much more skepticism of the free market and individualism.
Of course, controversies about the National Party and the Le Pens go beyond these differences. Today Mona Charen spoke at CPAC and provoked boos by denouncing Marion Le Pen:
I think the only reason she was here is because she’s named Le Pen. And the Le Pen name is a disgrace. Her grandfather is a racist and a Nazi. She claims that she stands for him. And the fact that CPAC invited her is a disgrace.
Marion’s grandfather has often minimized the Holocaust and founded his party nearly 50 years ago with, among others, Old Vichyites and Petainists with dubious histories. He was ousted from the National Front by its current leader Marine Le Pen, his own daughter, and aunt to Marion, in her effort to sanitize the party.
Reputedly Marion is more Catholic than her more secular aunt, with whom her relations are also reputedly estranged. Wikipedia says Marion gave birth to her only child two months after marriage then divorced her husband a couple years later, which implies she may not be, or at least was not then, a very zealous Catholic.
The National Front often cites France’s historic Catholicism especially as a talking point against Islam, as Marion did at CPAC. But it is different from traditional European Christian Democratic parties that explicitly affirm Christian anthropology and Western democracy. Its nationalism is also more distinct.
As Israeli conservative thinker Yoram Hazony tweeted after Le Pen’s CPAC speech: “French nationalism is *very* different from historic Anglo-American nationalism. Because it’s socialist. Because it’s absolutist. And also—hope you don’t mind my adding—because it’s atheist.”
Of course not all French nationalists are non-religious. De Gaulle was nationalist and Catholic while also democratic and of course anti-Vichy. While insufferably prickly with his Anglo-American allies, he was not an Anglophobe like his nemesis Pétain and many on the French far right. De Gaulle complained about Anglo-Saxons but largely was their difficult friend, emblemized by his stately presence at Churchill’s and Eisenhower’s funerals.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front now claims to admire de Gaulle even as its critics claim it still echoes Pétain and Vichy in its corporatist summons to devotion of fatherland, family and labor. Dreher and Dougherty are right that Anglo-American Protestant culture, conservative or otherwise, is distinct from most continental traditions including the French, and is more individualistic and capitalist. Anglo-America is also traditionally more committed to personal liberty and is more suspicious of centralized authority.
Reputedly Marion Le Pen is more inclined to Anglo-American style economic liberty than Aunt Marine, more religious and more distant from Vichy era nastiness. She is still an heir to a family dynasty, however dysfunctional both personally and politically, with troubling antecedents.
As head of the initial post-occupation provisional regime, de Gaulle once was presiding majestically over a government meeting, prompting one attendee to scribble in a note that de Gaulle was extraordinary, to which his colleague bemusedly scribbled back: Was not Lucifer the most beautiful of all the Lord’s angels?
Marion Le Pen is beautiful and compelling, but wariness is in order.